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Jun 13, 2019 4:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mark Halsey Recalls 40 Years Serving Customers At Herrick Hardware In Southampton

Mark Halsey will be retiring from Herrick Hardware after 40 years in August 2020.        DANA SHAW
Jun 20, 2019 9:05 AM

On Memorial Day weekend 40 years ago, Sam Herrick told a young and nervous Mark Halsey to take over the cash register at Herrick Hardware.“Huh?” Mr. Halsey thought to himself. He had never even touched a cash register before, let alone on one of the biggest weekends of the year for Southampton Village storefronts.

Being “thrown to the lions,” as Mr. Halsey put it, on the weekend that marked the start of the summer season in the Hamptons is enough to make any unsuspecting salesperson want to drive as far away west as possible.

But the 28-year-old stuck it out that weekend in 1979—and hasn’t stopped ever since.

“I love the work—I feel like a professor,” Mr. Halsey said between helping customers. “People come in and want something solved, and I just love solving it for them. And if I can’t do it, I find somebody who could.”

Mr. Halsey began his career at Herrick’s as a clerk after working for Southampton College as a custodian and later as a mail carrier, his first jobs after graduating from Southampton High School. He quickly moved up the ranks into the receiving department, and earned quite a reputation among frequent shoppers.

“People come in and say, ‘Where’s Mark? I want Mark to help me,’” he laughed. “People get to know you, and they realize that you know what you’re talking about. So they come back.”

Some of those shoppers Mr. Halsey helped turned out to be stars like Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley, Alan Alda and—one of his personal favorites—Brooke Shields.

“She came into the store asking me for something, and nobody in the store knew what it was, but I knew exactly what it was,” he explained. “So I went and got it for her, and she said, ‘How much is it going to cost?’ And I said, ‘Boy, this is going to cost you dearly.’ She said, ‘How much?’ I said, ‘A picture of you and me together.’”

Celebrity encounters are one of the perks of working in the Hamptons that Mr. Halsey considers a treat, but what’s kept him at Herrick’s are the bonds he has built with the regulars.

“The best customers are the ones who keep coming back,” he said. “I love to accommodate the locals just as well as the weekend warriors.”

Mr. Halsey knows that the locals have seen Herrick’s evolve just as he has.

“It was a whole different world back then,” he explained. “We had to inventory everything manually. When it came to changing prices, we would go around with a gun to label things. Instead of computers, we had Rolodex cards with all the customers’ names on them that we’d run through like a credit card. So we had these little sheets where we’d fill out every little thing that they bought, and then we would bill them at the end of the month. This is back in the day when it was like an old-fashioned hardware store. It was a challenge, but it was fun.”

Though Herrick’s has come a long way since weighing nails by the pound and selling onion sets, there’s one thing that hasn’t wavered at all since the family-run business opened in 1865: the invaluable customer service.

“The personal touch is what really sells this store,” he said. “The guys go all out to make the customer feel happy and complete. It’s not one of these types of stores where we tell a customer we can’t do something. We go out of our way to accommodate the customer and do whatever we can to help them.”

One of the unfortunate realities Mr. Halsey has seen after decades of working in the village is the struggle for small and local businesses to stay afloat. Even for one of the longest-standing stores in town, Herrick’s is no stranger to the offseason slump.

“In the winter, it does slow down, without a doubt,” he said. It’s a little struggle but people do come by for snow shovels or ice melt and things they need to survive for the winter.”

Growing up in Southampton and seeing so many storefronts come and go, Mr. Halsey knows how important it is for the community to support local businesses.

“It’s all big companies now, and you can’t fight them, and that’s what makes it hard,” he said. “It makes it very difficult for the locals.”

Still, Mr. Halsey knows Herrick’s isn’t going away any time soon.

“I think this place is set in stone,” he said. “As long as the guys keep doing what they’ve been doing, this store will survive.”

Mr. Halsey will celebrate his final day at Herrick Hardware in August 2020.

“I’m already counting days,” he laughed. “I’m going out on my birthday, August 7. What a great way to end it off.”

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Herrick`s hardware will never be the same without your smile and laughter. We will miss you! Happy Birthday in advance.....
By birdyblue6 (3), sag harbor on Jun 23, 19 8:25 AM
1 member liked this comment
Mark hasn't changed much since grade school, he's one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Long Live Mark Halsey !
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 23, 19 8:39 AM
Herrick’s won’t be the same.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jun 23, 19 10:13 AM
Herricks is the store with everything you need or might need. The cellar and the second floor are loaded with really neat stuff.
Needed 8-9" screws years ago for a boat project. Went to the cellar and found what was needed.
Thanks, great people...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 23, 19 12:09 PM
Herricks is a gem!
By Aeshtron (431), Southampton on Jun 23, 19 5:48 PM
Mark is the greatest! All Best Wishes to him and to Herricks as he count's down to his departure in '20.
By elliot (254), sag harbor on Jun 24, 19 11:45 AM